Herbert D. Pierson
Early in the fall semester, one of my students, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, unexpectedly brought her 10-year-old son to the university because she had to take him to the doctor immediately after class. The youngster sat next to his mother seemingly absorbed in drawing, writing, and reading—unaware of the class dynamics. However, a few days later I discovered he hadn’t been so oblivious to what was going on in the class. He astutely observed that, while I was conducting the lecture and discussion, neither his mother nor her classmates had raised their hands; he scolded her for ‘‘not knowing the answers!’’ I felt that, in a very poignant way, I had witnessed a modern version of the learning-styles generation gap.
Why I thought this way went back to graduate school during the early 1970s when one of my professors first introduced the concept of learning styles and I had found it interesting. However, once I returned to the daily demands of teaching large English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) classes, with piles of papers to edit and grade, I had fewer moments to reflect on the earlier enthusiasms and idealism of graduate days. Learning styles were lost from memory or simply eclipsed by the daily routine of teaching. Although the tenets of learning styles were far from my consciousness, the instinctive way I taught my classes and questioned fixed ideas about instructional practices were evidence to me that those rich concepts from graduate school were deeply rooted, only waiting to be actualized at the proper time.
After years of teaching, I now realize that I have been on a joyous intellectual journey that has led me back to the great ideas of graduate school.